UN World Food Programme

New Global Alliance Embraces Efficient Cooking Stoves

Stoves provided through WFP's SAFE programme come in all shapes and sizes, from the industrial steel variety used to prepare school meals to the family-sized clay stoves used for cooking daily meals. Copyright: WFP/Rein Skullerud

WFP is a key partner in a new alliance to bring fuel-efficient cooking stoves to millions of homes across the developing world. Formed under the auspices of the Clinton Global Initiative, the alliance sets out to save lives and protect the environment by enabling families to cook cleanly, safely and efficiently.

ROME – An ambitious global alliance to promote the use of energy efficient cooking stoves across the developing world was announced Tuesday at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) annual meeting in New York.

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, led by the United Nations Foundation and with WFP as a key partner, aims to provide 100 million households with access to clean and safe household cooking solutions by 2020. This will, in turn, save lives, improve livelihoods, reduce climate change emissions, and help meet a host of MDGs.

"WFP is deploying thousands of these stoves to help women cook food with a fraction of the wood they would normally use," explained WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran. "That helps to save lives, protect women and protect the environment."

Forging a new alliance

WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran (right) with former US President Bill Clinton, Dr Maria Neira of the WHO, and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (left) at the CGI annual meeting in New York.

Many players

The alliance includes players the private sector, non-profit organisations, foundations, universities, companies, governments and other UN agencies.

It will build on the experience of previous projects, as there are many country-specific initiatives around cooking stoves, as well as drawing upon new technology developments to find a large-scale solution for the problems caused by inefficient stoves across the developing world.

"The benefits from this initiative will be cleaner and safer homes, and that will, in turn, ripple out for healthier families, stronger communities, and more stable societies," said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. "We are excited because we think this is actually a problem we can solve."

In additions to its strong field presence and long experience working in remote hard-to-reach locations, WFP’s Safe Access to Firewood and Alternative Energy (SAFE) programme puts it at the forefront of efforts to address household energy issues.

SAFE Stoves

In many parts of the world, most of the cooking is done indoors over an open fire, which gives rise to a number of health and safety risks that more efficient ways of cooking can help reduce.

Deforestation is perhaps the most visible, releasing greenhouse gasses and exposing people to floods, soil erosion and desertification that exacerbate poverty and hunger. The stoves provided through the SAFE programme can cut down a family’s fuel needs by up to 50 percent, greatly reducing their impact on the environment.

They also produce less smoke, an important benefit for the millions of people who suffer from lung infections and pneumonia as a result of cooking inside poorly ventilated homes. According to the World Health Organization, “indoor air pollution” kills an average of 1.6 million people every year—about 40 percent more than malaria.

Just as importantly, efficient stoves reduce the amount of time women and children spend gathering firewood in conflict-ridden countries like Uganda, where they risk violence and rape at the hand of roving bandits. In post-conflict countries like Sri Lanka as well, efficient stoves can help reduce the likelihood of stepping on a landmine or unexploded bomb.